Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dori Yaki (Red Bean filled Pancakes)

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My friend Jenn is here spending time with us in Tokyo! She arrived on Tuesday night and will be staying for just over a week. Yesterday was our first full day exploring some of the city, and with no surprise, Tokyo offered an exciting food experience!

Our day was spent walking around Takashimaya, a building full of stores like Gucci, Armani, and many other stores that we could not even fathom actually purchasing something from. However, the basement level was another story. In a seemingly endless space of counters filled with beautifully presented food, from tempura and sushi to chocolates and smoothies, we found an affordable outlet for our inner foodie-ness.

I have actually walked by this particular counter many times over the past months. The delicious smell of fresh pancakes wafts into my nostrils and I am intrigued watching the assembly happening behind the glass. The only problem is that I never really knew what I was watching or wanting to try. I knew it looked like a pancake. The first time I saw them, I thought they were filled with chocolate. Fortunately, I figured out before actually tasting them that it was actually red pean paste! That would have been quite a surprise biting into something expecting chocolate and getting beans instead!

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We walked up to the counter and ordered 1 dori yaki to share. It was warm, slightly sweet, and absolutely delicious!

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Jenn took the photos for this post (she is a fabulous photographer). For more on our day, see Jenn's blog here.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Shrimp Pad Thai


Remember that one time...
when I said I would post some Thai recipes...
and then didn't?
Oops, sorry about that.

Well, here I am to redeem myself! Shrimp Pad Thai, anyone?

One of the most frustrating feelings for me is to watch someone make a meal look so easy to cook, only to find out that it is not easy at all.

When we were in Thailand, I watched a woman make Pad Thai for us. She spoke no English, so I had to watch very carefully. I took photos of the different steps so that I wouldn't forget any ingredients. Since she didn't measure any ingredients, I had to experiment with that on my own. Another huge difference is that she was cooking for 30 people. My Pad Thai only needed to feed 2 hungry bellies.

The first attempt was not good. I overcooked the noodles and couldn't seem to get the flavors balanced. This is when that frustrating feeling I mentioned earlier comes into play. Now, I admit that if something doesn't go right the first time, I tend to lose my motivation. But this Pad Thai dish had to be conquered. Brad loved the first try, mistakes and all. So when I mentioned trying to improve the recipe a second time, he jumped for joy!

The second attempt was much more successful. The noodles were great; the flavors were perfect. There were a couple of reasons why this time went more smoothly. The amount of liquids I used to cook the noodles was more accurate and I was able to find dried shrimp (or ebi in Japanese).


These little guys are in season right now, so I am suddenly finding them everywhere. Here is an interesting story about them from a great blog: EatingAsia.

The Shrimp Pad Thai turned out beautifully once I got used to the cooking method and the ingredients. We topped it with a bit of sugar, red pepper flakes, chopped peanuts, and lime juice.


The flavors were so good that when I closed my eyes, I could imagine being back in Thailand...


Shrimp Pad Thai

*note: The measurements are not exact. If you feel like you need more liquid to cook the noodles, for example, go ahead and add more.

1 package of pad thai noodles
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/2 cup firm tofu, cut into 1/4 inch strips
1 package bean sprouts
1 bunch scallions, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 egg
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons Sriracha chili sauce (or to taste)
3 or 4 oz. dried shrimp soaked for at least 20 minutes in 4 cups water
Red Pepper Flakes or Chili Flakes

In a wok or large pan with high sides, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the tofu and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the fish sauce, soy sauce, rice vinegar and chili sauce. Cook for 2 more minutes or until simmering. Add the fresh shrimp and cook until pink, about 2 or 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the tofu and shrimp from the pan, leaving the sauces.

Next, add the dried shrimp and the water. Allow the sauce to come to a boil. Add the noodles. They should be mostly but not be completely immersed in the liquid. Cook until the noodles are nearly cooked through and have soaked up most of the liquid, about 10 minutes.

Add the green onions and sprouts and cook for about 1 minute until the green onions are slightly softened. Push the noodles to the side of the wok. Place the egg in the wok, move the noodles on top of the egg. Allow the egg to cook for about 2 or 3 minutes. Toss the pad Thai to break up the egg and work it into the noodles.

Finally, add the shrimp and tofu back to the pan and toss to combine. Serve in bowls topped with sugar, red pepper flakes, chopped peanuts, cilantro and a lime wedge.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Terrace Tonic

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Sometimes, a refreshing cocktail is all you need to set things right. I woke up in a frantic state this morning. I hate it when that happens. Everything else went fine today, but because it started out stressfully, I felt I deserved a nice cocktail when I came home. Call me selfish, but that's the way it is. Fortunately, when I came home this afternoon, I was greeted by warm, glorious sunshine reflecting off the Tamagawa River and showing off the beautiful mountains in the distance. Perfect weather, I thought, for a cocktail.

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However, I didn't want just any cocktail. I wanted something clean, refreshing, summery but not overly sweet. After a lot of thinking, I decided to utilize some of the basil plants I recently purchased. I can do without a lot of things, but fresh basil is not one of them. I love...LOVE...fresh basil. Seriously, I don't know what I would do without it. So, I started thinking about how I could incorporate basil into cocktail form. My mom's favorite cocktail is a Gin and Tonic and my Grandma Cahill's favorite is a Vodka Tonic. I have grown to love these as well. I also love Mojitos. So, I decided to get creative with the ingredients from these refreshing drinks to create something new.

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Creativity began flowing. A little lemon zest, sugar and chopped basil leaves and nearly 2 shots of vodka crushed in the bottom of my glass made for a flavorful base. Top it off with some ice cubes and tonic water and you've got one delicious aperitif in your hand!
The name of this cocktail, if it wasn't already pretty obvious, came from the title of this blog. Aside from the Wasabi Spiked Bloody Mary, this is the first cocktail I have really developed for Tokyo Terrace. This drink is best enjoyed on a deck (or terrace, if you will) so it is appropriately named the Terrace Tonic.

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Terrace Tonic

makes 1 cocktail

1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon chopped basil leaves
2 shots vodka
Tonic Water
Ice cubes

Combine the sugar, zest, basil leaves and vodka in the bottom of a glass. Using a spoon, smash the ingredients together to release and meld the flavors. Add the ice cubes and top with the tonic water. Garnish with a slice of lemon.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Chinese Restaurant

Chinese food in Japan? You betcha! And it is the best Chinese food I've ever contest.

There are nights every now and again when Brad and I are too tired or busy to have a home cooked meal. Fortunately, we live a city with endless restaurants serving amazingly delicious food. One of our favorites, which ironically sits right next door to a KFC and McDonald's, is a Chinese restaurant about 5 minutes by bike from our old apartment. We have found some of our favorite dishes but always like to try something new when we are there. It also has the added bonus of being uber cheap!

One of our favorite meals at this restaurant, actually called "Chinese Restaurant", is the sweet and sour pork. Unlike the sweet and sour pork (or chicken) we are used to in the States, this version has a rich black sauce smothering a block of slow cooked pork. It is tender, juicy, and exploding with flavor. Add some vegetable fried noodles and some gyoza, then wash it down with a little Yebisu beer and you've got a dream meal! The best part of the eating experience at this restaurant is when the train goes by (there is a station on the same block). It passes directly over the restaurant. The first time we ate there, we thought a huge earthquake hit! It's a great little spot.I still love the sweet and sour chicken at the Chinese Restaurant (Pagoda) in White Bear Lake, but only when I can share it with my family...

I wish I could give you a recipe for this fabulous dish. Alas, I have no idea how to even begin to make it... This sweet and sour pork is something I often wish I could get for take out, but something tells me the ambiance of the restaurant is part of what gives the food so much flavor.

Chinese food in Japan...yep. My life is funny. Amazingly funny.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Bakeries? In Tokyo? YES!

Before we moved to Japan, I thought for sure that I would have a difficult time finding a good bakery. If there were any bakeries, I thought to myself, everything would probably be dry and not worth buying. Boy was I wrong! I have come across some lovely bakeries in Tokyo and their baked goods are delicious! The only downside is that they are much too expensive.

We stopped by Andersen's Bakery on Aoyama dori in Omote-sando a couple of weeks ago after going to church. Brad took some beautiful photos of what they had to offer while I perused the selection of breads and pastries.

The bakeries in Japan carry loads of bread, doughnuts, croissants...but not cupcakes. Sigh. Since my experience with Nottinghill Cakes, I have yet to find another big beautiful cupcake in Tokyo. It's probably just as's not like I need them. Better stick to eating the plethora of healthier items Japan has to offer, right?

Anyway, Andersen's Bakery is one of our new favorite bakeries. The presentation and quality of their bread is tremendous and a nice treat when you want something a few steps above the typical loaf of sliced bread.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pizza Party (Japanese-style)

Last night, we had a few friends over to see our new apartment. Our things were all unpacked, I just bought new curtains at Nitori (a store similar to IKEA), and we were prepared to present our new home. When we decided to have a group over in the middle of the week, it seemed appropriate to make everything as simple and relaxing as possible. The clear solution was something we had not turned to in Japan as a dinner option, but coupled with some Mario Kart action on our Nintendo Wii, it seemed more than perfect...we ordered pizza from Domino's! Let me rephrase that...BRAD ordered, I video taped him ordering (in Japanese, no less.) If you would like to see the video of the hilarious experience, click here.

Japan has the uncanny ability to take something completely traditional and bring it to an unexpected, sometimes scary, new level. Pizza is no exception. We ordered three pizzas to get a variety of experiences. The first pizza we ordered was the "American Special", which was a typical pepperoni pizza with sauce and cheese. Then, we went for it. The "Chicki-Teri" pizza (or chicken teriyaki) was loaded with mushrooms, chicken, pizza sauce, cheese, and a sauce that resembles mayonnaise, but might have a little hint of mustard in it drizzled over the top...I'm still not really sure what it is, but it's tasty!

Finally, we ordered the "Quattro Giant" pizza (pronounced quattro giant-o). This pizza was a combination of 4 different types of pizza. I have no idea what any of them were, with the exception of the chicki-teri section.

After enjoying our pizza slices with some red wine, we played Mario Kart for about an hour. It's truly amazing how something that was so completely entertaining and fulfilling during my elementary and middle school years is still just as enjoyable today. I was thinking last night about the time I used to spend with my friends on a Friday night, eating pizza, talking and playing video games. Now that I think about it, that makes us sound pretty lazy... In any case, it's nice to have friends, even in my 20's, who are not afraid to continue living and reliving childhood moments like we did last night. I think some people become too serious. If nothing else, Nintendo keeps us playful!

Brad clearly enjoyed his pizza...

Conclusion- if you come to Japan, you have to try at least one crazy pizza. Maybe one with potatoes or eggplant...they're all delicious as far as I can tell!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bloody Marys, Deviled Eggs and a little BBQ

Easter in my family usually consists of Bloody Mary's, ham and sausage, about 10 different egg dishes, cheesy potatoes, caramel rolls, and some fruit. This year, rather than making all the traditional dishes I've had for Easter every year of my life, we scaled it down and made the basics along with something new. The menu was: Wasabi spiked bloody mary's, deviled eggs, tandoori chicken, spice rubbed chicken, swordfish, and hamburgers.

I'm guessing the tandoori chicken and swordfish needs an explanation first... Instead of spending the whole day cooking, Brad and I invited some friends over and told them to BYOB (bring your own beverage) and BYOM (bring your own meat). The food selection was a diverse collection of chicken, fish and beef. On top of the crazy amount of chicken and fish, our friend Justyna also brought a Polish Easter Pastry (I think that's what she called it...) for dessert.

It was definitely not the Easter menu I'm used to, but it was appropriately festive regardless. The weather was perfectly sunny and warm, so we brought our portable grills down to the river, laid out a blanket and enjoyed Easter outside.

My Grandma Cahill makes deviled eggs every year for Easter, so I had to include those on the menu. I didn't have her recipe handy, so I developed my own. Instead of using a bunch of mayonnaise, I substituted a little plain yogurt to lighten the flavor and texture. They were delicious and very easy.

The next, and possibly the most important part of the Easter menu: Bloody Marys. My Uncle Steve makes the best Bloody Mary's in the world. However, I had to make my own this year. Sigh. Rather than using horseradish, I used freshly grated wasabi and a touch of hot sauce to spice them up. Toss in a Japanese pickle and a little soy sauce and you've got a Japanese influenced Bloody Mary! My Irish Catholic family might faint at the thought, but it was good- I swear! One thing I found out while making these is that fresh wasabi is milder than the wasabi paste or powder I usually use. Because of this, you need a little more. I would probably just go for the wasabi paste next time to give it more of a kick.

Although I missed my family terribly, Easter was wonderful in many ways. Good food, good friends, beautiful weather...can't get much better than that.

Deviled Eggs:

1 dozen eggs, hardboiled
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup plain yogurt
Worchershire sauce
1/4 cup chopped green onions
white pepper

After hard boiling the eggs and removing the shells, cut them in half and remove the yolk. In the bowl of a food processor, combing the yolks, mustards, mayo, yogurt, worchershire sauce, salt and pepper and pulse until smooth. Stir in the green onions.

Using a teaspoon, fill each egg half with the mixture. Garnish with a few green onions and chili powder.

Wasabi Spiked Bloody Mary
Makes 1

Salt (for the rim of the glass)
6 oz. tomato juice
2 oz. vodka or gin
1 teaspoon fresh grated wasabi or 1/4 teaspoon wasabi powder/paste
dash of soy sauce
hot sauce
lime wedge
pickle or other vegetable for stirring

Rim the glass with salt using juice from the lime wedge and add the ice. In a separate glass or mixer, combine the tomato juice, vodka or gin, wasabi, hot sauce and soy sauce. Stir the ingredients to combine. Pour over the ice and garnish with the lime wedge and pickle.

Season for Sakura

A few days ago, I hopped on my bike in search of Sakura (cherry blossom) trees. For nearly a week and a half, the cherry blossom trees, with their pale pink flowers, had been attracting viewers all over Tokyo. It is amazing to see the number of people who participate in Hanami. They take entire days to sit under the cherry blossom trees to enjoy their sweet smell and gaze up into the hundreds and hundreds of little flowers. It is endearing to see people, who are usually so closed off, have such an attachment to a delicate, beautiful part of nature.
Not only is this time of year exciting because of the Sakura trees, but also because of the many Sakura flavored treats one can find. I stumbled upon these delicious little Sakura macarons at a Starbuck's where I stopped for a light lunch. I know...I still frequent the local Starbuck's, even in Japan...I can't help it!

With its light, floral flavor, this macaron reminded me that not only do desserts not last long enough, but Sakura season does not either. With that thought in my head, I spent the rest of the afternoon capturing photos of Hanami. It was beautiful watching the small petals float down through the air like snow flakes. I made it just in time. The next day, the blossoms were nearly gone.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

We're in the papers!

Brad and I were lucky enough to have an article written about us in my hometown paper, the White Bear Press! Both of our blogs are mentioned!

Click here to read the article.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Fresh Scallops in Yoga

On Sunday, Brad and I went for a little walk in Yoga, the place we stayed during our first weeks in Japan. It was nice to be back in the familiar area where we experienced our first tastes (food and otherwise) of living in Japan.

As we walked through the small side streets, we were both in a little bit of a haze. We moved into our new apartment on Saturday and felt completely drained of all energy. It is amazing seeing the moving process happen so quickly. The last time we moved, it was across an ocean and we had to wait months and months for our things from the United States to reach us in Japan. By the time all the boxes arrived at our Tokyo apartment, it was like Christmas because we had forgotten what we had packed. This time, everything was packed by Friday night, transported to our new place on Saturday, and then unpacked Saturday night (well, some of it was unpacked Saturday night…we’re still working on that…) This quick turn around proved to be exhausting for many reasons, but mostly because it all happened so fast.

So, back to the haze we were in while walking around Yoga… In our exhausted state, we stumbled upon something exciting and new (something that happens frequently here in Japan) that helped to wake us up a little. A festival was taking place with stands selling noodles and seaweed, and a clown putting on a show for the young families. After walking through the festival, we found that they had saved the best for last.

At the last stand, on two small grills, a man was cooking fresh (still in the shell) scallops. The scallops were placed on the grill in their closed shells and as each popped open, the top shell was lifted to reveal a juicy, salty scallop. As they cooked over the smoky grill, they were drizzled with a bit of soy sauce and served on a paper plate with wooden chopsticks.

The scallops were simple, delicious, and a welcome treat on a Sunday afternoon. This discovery reminded me of the simple joys that can get lost when life seems to be zooming along. We nearly missed this stand because we were anxious to get home. I’m glad we took the time to stop and see something new.